Catch up with producer/engineer KELLR and watch the video for his latest single "Faded" (ft. Matt Giraud and July 3-0) off his forthcoming EP, Hear My Voice, out soon.
What got you interested in music and production?
KELLR: My whole family are musicians. My grandfather was a band director for close to 40 years, both my parents and my cousins and everybody are singers, a bunch of my family plays piano, so I was always around music growing up. I ended up playing piano myself and started composing and writing my own songs when I was about 11 and just played by ear, I don't actually read music. I was playing by ear and that's what got me started, just being around music all the time.
Do you remember the first song you wrote that you were happy with?
Yeah [laughs]. I think that was about the time I was maybe 12 or 13 when I wrote that song. I was taking piano lessons in the traditional route where you go through the books and play other people's songs, but all I wanted to do was play my own songs. I wrote a song and I remember there was a recital for all the other kids and I was the only one that was playing original music so I thought that was pretty cool.
Which musicians would you say you were influenced by?
Definitely Michael Jackson. Growing up, I had a half hour commute to school from kindergarten through second or third grade and that was right after Bad had just come out, so I just remember listening to him all the time. I think that's probably had a big influence on the way that I produce as well, especially with rhythm and drums and the beats that him and Quincy Jones, his producer, made. He was definitely a big influence on my music.
Is there a new artist you'd recommend everyone take a listen to?
Yeah, there's a producer/artist, his name is Lido and he's from Norway but he's a really good producer and musician and I think he sings as well. He co-produced one of the tracks on Chance The Rapper's album that just won a Grammy. He has an album out that came out maybe 6 months ago called Everything. It's a pretty cool compilation, a lot of really unique production, electronic music, R&B stuff; he's kind of a jack of all trades. His production is really top notch and I really like him.
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard your music?
I kind of describe it as electronic hip hop. Drums and rhythm are really important to me so I always try to make those a focal point, at least in part of the track if not throughout the whole track when I'm producing. Hard hitting drums, unique sounds, and cool transitions. I always try to focus on my mixing, as well, to make things sound as clear as possible and have their own space and I definitely want to tap into emotion too, whatever kind of emotional scape that I'm trying to make with the song.
What were your inspirations behind your single for "Faded"?
That was an instrumental that I just really liked. That's how I started with this project, is basically just producing songs that I liked producing, that I liked listening to, and so that instrumental was one that I really liked. Nothing really happened with it for a while when I was trying to put together the EP and then it just came out of nowhere. One of the co-writers on "Faded" had the instrumental and played it for Matt in a session and he really liked it and they were just almost joking around with ideas for the track and I think that's probably why it turned out so good, is because there was no pressure; it wasn't like we had to write a track and there was a deadline, it was all for fun. So he liked that and he came over here and we finished up the track and then I've been friends with Alex, the rapper, July 3-0, for a while and so I knew that he would be perfect for a bridge or a third verse part. It all came together really easily and I think that's probably when the best music is made, when there's no pressure and everyone is just doing their own thing for fun.
Could you tell us more about your debut EP, Hear My Voice?
It's kind of a compilation album almost - I never listened to those Now That's What I Call Music things growing up [laughs] but this is kind of like that where there's a bunch of different types of music on there - it represents the sound and the music that I enjoy making, that I enjoy listening to. There's electronic stuff on there, there's R&B, there's hip hop, there's pop, there's 2 instrumentals that are on there. That's the whole idea; this is a body of work and all these styles and songs are what I like making, what I like listening to, and hopefully that'll resonate with the people that listen to it too.
Is there one track off the EP you're most excited to share with your listeners?
"Faded" was probably the one I was most excited about. I like all of them [laughs], they all have their own unique place in my heart, but the next single I'm putting out is called "Rumors" and it's a more electronic track and it's really cool. I'm excited to put that one out, too. It's a polarized track, there's a lot of very broken down, intimate parts where the vocalist, it's just her and a basic beat and then there's a huge explosion into this chorus with lots of synths and drums so there's like opposite ends of the spectrum, which I think is really cool, so I'm excited to share that at the end of this month.
How would you sum up Hear My Voice in one sentence?
It's a great representation of the music that I love making and I like listening to.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
I hope when people hear it they can tune in on all the emotion and the emotional space that I create with each track and maybe that will resonate with them. Or if they just like listening to the music, then that works too. It's really just an artistic expression and I'm sure there's something for everybody on the EP so I'm sure they can find at least one song that resonates with them.
Is there anything you want to add?
Definitely to check out the video for "Faded" that just came out - it's up on Yahoo Music and it'll be on my YouTube page, as well. Then there's a video for "Rumors" that's going to come out probably closer to the end of March and I think visuals like that are pretty important. But ["Faded"] is a cool video so definitely check it out.